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Secrets of Submarine Cables - Transmitting 99 percent of all international data!

"Internet services like Facebook and Twitter allow us to communicate casually with people not only in Japan but also with the rest of the world. It's also easy to receive data from overseas, as when we watch videos on YouTube or live performances on Ustream. But can you imagine how we are connected with people abroad? What connects us all is an optical submarine cable lying on the ocean floor. Surprisingly large volumes of data come and go through a single submarine cable.

The submarine cable is a rarely noticed infrastructure that plays a vital role behind the scenes. What is it like actually?

Today, I'm visiting the Submarine Network Division of NEC, one of the top three submarine cable vendors in the world (and the top vendor in the Asia Pacific region), to get an in-depth look into the field."

Picture: Interviewee Ms. Erika Koga

Erika is a system engineer who came from Brazil to join NEC's submarine cable team. As a submarine cable expert, she designs and proposes submarine cables that are best suited to the needs and purposes of customers, mainly telecommunications carriers.

  • MitaHello, Ms. Koga. First of all, could you briefly tell us what a submarine cable is?
  • KogaYes. A submarine cable is an optical fiber cable used for data communications across the ocean. The information of Facebook, Twitter and other services you use daily is transmitted through this submarine cable. In addition to such information, almost all kinds of data from overseas, including YouTube videos, Ustream live performances and voice data of international phone calls, are delivered over the submarine cable.
  • MitaI see. Then, what happens when I open an American web site in Tokyo, for example? My PC sends a signal through the submarine cable to the North American continent and then receives the data of the web site in return over the same cable. Is that correct?
  • KogaYes. That's correct. A submarine cable not only lies between the U.S. and Japan, but we also have other submarine cables connecting many other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. As a matter of fact, all the continents, except Antarctica, are interconnected via submarine cables.

Picture: 2012 Submarine Cable MapSource: "2012 Submarine Cable Map" of Telegeography of the U.S.

  • MitaWow, we have a lot of submarine cables out there, don't we? And it's these submarine cables that enable us to connect easily to other people around the world!
  • KogaThat's right! To give you a familiar example, the live broadcasts of Major League baseball games are also delivered over the submarine cable.
  • MitaReally? Major League baseball games? I thought they were broadcast via a communications satellite.
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